PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has approved a phased approach to creating a hybrid golf course and park at what is currently a city-owned and subsidized golf course.
At a meeting Monday night, members of the Port Townsend City Council voted unanimously to direct staff to negotiate a contract with an as-yet-unnamed nonprofit that will run the golf course and to bring the draft back to council for approval by November.
Following a year-long public engagement process that brought out strong emotions throughout the community, council members voted to implement a phased approach to adding amenities like walking and biking trails, a playground and an amphitheater while still keeping the nine-hole golf course.
“This is a 20-plus-year phasing plan that would incrementally increase public access while maintaining course access,” said Chris Jones, principal at Groundswell, the design firm hired by the city to draft proposals for a reworked property.
“We’ve outlined a four-phase plan to achieve that,” Jones said.
The golf course — which occupies a 57-acre plot of land in the center of town — has been subsidized by the city for several years, and a 2020 public feedback process indicated support for exploring other uses for the property. But supporters of the golf course rallied — leading to some contentious public meetings on the topic — and in recent weeks a group has come forward with a proposal to create two nonprofit organizations that could operate the course while other portions of the property could be reworked to accommodate other community assets such as housing.
Golf park operations are not tax-deductible, said Christina Albrecht, a member of a group drafting business and management plans for the course, and a 501(c)(7) organization will be formed to manage golf operations while another tax-deductible 501(c)(3) organization will manage restorations and other responsibilities at the site.
The group is asking community members to donate $1,000 to the creation of the new nonprofit with a fundraising goal of $100,000.
That group has been working under the name Friends of the Port Townsend Golf Course, but branding discussions are underway, Albrecht said.
The phased plan, which will be fully completed in 2045, would relocate some of the holes on the golf course to make space for added amenities, most notably a development of permanently affordable housing along Blaine Street.
Additional housing has been a major priority for the city, and under the proposed plan, the development at the course could accommodate up to 45 townhomes and 63 apartment units, Jones said.
The first phase, to take place in 2024, would restore the golf course, provide community access and trails, potentially relocate the Recyclerly bicycle nonprofit to the course and apply for grants to fund construction of a playground. The tee box for hole 5 on the course will be relocated to accommodate the future playground.
Phase 2, planned for 2025-2029, would install the playground and a miniature golf course; renovate the parking lot and provide disabled access; provide disc golf and footgolf (golf with a soccer ball) amenities and build an amphitheater at the base of the driving range.
Phase 3, 2030-2034, would install plant restoration and a bird blind and expand restaurant and beverage service.
The final phase, 2035-2045, would see the construction of affordable housing and a community garden, a virtual driving range and relocate holes 5 and 6.
The terms of the plan are still subject to change and the lease agreement with the nascent nonprofit will be brought before the city council, likely within the next month.
“This is laying out basically a series of expectation points for both the city, the community and the operator of the golf course land for what the expectations on both sides are going to be, including a point at which the city will reserve the ability to move forward with the housing proposal,” Mayor David Faber said.
A handful of people gave public comment at Monday’s meeting, with some expressing support for the proposal and others questioning why the city was trying to alter the golf course in the first place.
Council members said they were pleased with the current proposal and said they felt it reflected a compromise between golf advocates and others who wanted to see the land used for other purposes.
“This to me shows what we do really good, get angry, have some crazy meetings, but we did it and we’re here,” said council member Monica MickHagger.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.